How to get started in indoor freeflight

How to get started in indoor Free Flight

By  Brett Sanborn

A recurring question that I’m asked by people who see Indoor for the first time is “how do you get into this hobby?” Unlike RC and many types of FAI events, Indoor has a “builder of the model” rule stating that the model that you fly at a contest must be built entirely by you. This means you can’t just go out and buy a plane and fly. The level of craftsmanship required to be successful in Indoor requires a bit of an initial time investment before a flier is competitive. Achieving long term goals in this fashion sweetens your eventual success.

The mechanics of getting into the hobby can be summarized into a few simple steps:

Identify a local Indoor flying club. While there do seem to be “hot spots” around the country where a few indoor groups are more active than others, several states boast multiple freeflight clubs. A comprehensive list can be found at the NFFS website (see link at end of article). Attending a these local contests is even more fun, and more importantly, local contest is a great way to meet people. This leads directly into the next step, which is essential to any beginner in Indoor freeflight.

Find a mentor or a group of mentors. When I started out flying Indoor, I had a group of four mentors that I could reach out to when I had questions on construction or flying techniques. The key is identifying approachable people who are successful at the hobby. Some beginners may harbor a misconception that fliers are unapproachable about giving up techniques or “secrets.” This couldn’t be more wrong. I have found that if you take the time to ask an expert a question, you’ll get your answer—and usually more information than you were expecting. First attempting to build a model on your own is always a good idea. Don’t expect your mentor to sit with you over long periods of time doing step by step instruction. Once you have a plane to work with, discuss with your mentors which specific components of the airplane need improvement. Typically the information that the expert fliers will give is a rehash of techniques that have been published for a number of decades, which brings us to the final point.

Read as much as you can. Though a bunch of information pertaining to Indoor may not come up on a simple Google search, a lot of information is out there. A key item to have if you’re beginning is Ron William’s “Building and Flying Model Airplanes.” Wonderfully illustrated, the 1981 book presents techniques that are still valid today. Another useful work is Lew Gitlow’s “Indoor Flying Models.” Like Ron’s book, Lew’s book contains many step by step construction instructions, rubber winding methods, and flying techniques. Finally, a newsletter series started in the 1960’s that still exists today is called “Indoor News and Views.” INAV is a useful source of historical Indoor happenings and also contains articles by the experts on how to improve your models.

Getting started in this hobby is that easy! Simply find a local flying group, someone who will answer all your questions, and read a bunch of existing information on the hobby and the rest will come naturally. Remember, Indoor freeflight rewards hard work and dedication.


NFFS club list:

Cool documentary about Indoor in production:


One comment

  1. I found that my indoor mentor really helped me with getting the airplanes in proper trim. Construction I could find my way through normally but having someone critque the flight of your airplane really taught me alot. When I went to contests I would see people flying airplanes that were constructed well but I would beat them because my planes were adjusted better.

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